Trespass to person: Assault

Introduction:

A tort is a civil wrong involving unlawful behaviour or the infringement of a legal right, and the person who commits the tort is legally responsible for the claimant’s damages. The tortfeasor is the one who engages in this tortuous behaviour. The difference between a tort and a criminal offence is that the latter is prosecuted by the government. Tort law is defined as a breach of duty that causes harm to the plaintiff and for which the plaintiff has a remedy, and it was introduced to India from the United Kingdom.

Assault is the most puzzling concept in both tort and criminal law. A intentional attempt to cause bodily hurt to another person is characterized as assault. A common definition of assault is an attempt to harm another person, although it can also involve threats against others.

Meaning:

In common law, assault is defined as a defendant’s behaviour that causes the plaintiff to have a reasonable fear of the defendant inflicting a battery on him. “When a person points a loaded firearm at another person, it is called assault. It cannot be considered an assault if the person on whom the weapon was loaded is aware that the pistol is empty.” When the defendant generates fear in the plaintiff’s mind that he is about to commit battery against the plaintiff, he has committed the wrong of assault. The wrong is defined as an attempt to damage someone rather than the harm that results from that attempt. To be charged with assault, the behaviour must be offensive or put the safety of another person in jeopardy. This means that even if the victim was not physically wounded, someone might be charged with assault.

Essentials of Assault:

  1. Intent-

To be held accountable for an assault, the defendant must have intended to put the plaintiff in dread of an immediate, offensive, or harmful contact, as well as the existing power, actual or apparent, to inflict such a touching.

  • Reasonable apprehension-

This defining feature distinguishes a criminal act from an assault. The victim must believe that the defendant’s acts will cause him embarrassment. A person’s apprehension refers to their fear of anything bad or unpleasant happening to them.

  • Apprehension of Imminent Harm-

The terror experienced by the sufferer must be the result of a direct danger or immediate threat. Future threats will not be considered an attack.

Case laws:

  • Read v. Coker[i]

P was encircled by D and his men, who rolled up their sleeves and threatened to break his neck if he did not leave. P entered D’s workshop as a rent collector and refused to leave until the rent was paid. This was ruled to be an assault since the threat’s condition was insufficient to negate it.

  • Bavisetti Venkat Surya Rao v. Nandipati Muthayya[ii]

Plaintiff owed the defendant a specific amount that he could not pay. The defendant intended to travel to plaintiff’s house and sell some personal belongings in order to recover the funds. The defendant hired a goldsmith to appraise the value of gold in plaintiff’s home, but the person standing near the house at the time of the evaluation borrowed the money from someone else to give it to the defendant, and the plaintiff sued the defendant for assault after the defendant took the money. There was no attack since the defendants said and did nothing when the Goldsmith entered, and the threat of the Goldsmith using force against the plaintiff was far too remote a possibility to have put the plaintiff in fear of immediate harm. As a result, a conditional threat is not the same as an assault, nor is it the same as mere verbal threats, unless there is an immediate desire and ability to injure.

Conclusion:

The plaintiff anticipated immediate bodily contact, had reasonable apprehension, and the defendant’s act of interference was purposeful are the primary elements of assault. People are confronted with trespass on a daily basis, but it is critical to fully comprehend the nature of the trespassed act, property, loss, and impact on the plaintiff. If the behaviour is intrinsically suggestive of a wrongful incident, then all possible remedies for recouping the harm should be considered.

References:

  1. Krati Bhardwaj, Law of Torts in India, Blog iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/law-of-torts/.
  2. Mansi, Trespass to person in law of torts, Legal sarcasm, https://legalsarcasm.com/legal-notes/trespass-to-person-in-the-law-of-torts/.
  3. Rishabh, Assault and Essentials of Assault, Legal Service India, https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-6320-assault-and-essentials-of-assault.html.
  4. Anonymous, Battey, assault and right of defense under torts, Lexforti, https://lexforti.com/legal-news/battery-assault-and-right-of-defence-under-torts/.
  5. Shubham Khunteta, Trespass: Meaning, Nature, Types, Defenses and Case Laws, Blog iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/trespass-meaning-nature-types-defenses-case-laws/#_ftn6

[i] Read v. Coker, 138 ER 1437.

[ii] Bavisetti Venkat Surya Rao v. Nandipati Muthayya, AIR 1964 AP 382.

Aishwarya Says:

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